Favorite Albums of 2020

At some point in the next couple of weeks I’ll be writing up my annual Most Memorable Pop-Culture of the year post, but as I was thinking ahead to what is likely to go into that post I realized that I was going to have a hard time narrowing my album choice down to one or two things that I wanted to talk about. So I figured I would write up a separate post with my favorite albums from this year that I will just refer back to in that section of my larger look at pop-culture for the year.

I was trying to come up with a nice even number for this like Top 5 or Top 10, but I finally decided that was an arbitrary limit and I could choose as many albums as I wanted to. When I was trying to stick to just 5 I felt like I was still leaving some albums out, but when I tried to get to 10 then I felt like I was putting in some albums just to pad things and that they weren’t really favorites. So here you go. Here’s my Top 7 Albums of 2020.

  1. Expectations by Katie Pruitt

This album was an early favorite for me and it stayed there. It came out back in March. I was already in love with the title single, “Expectations”. I had tickets to see Katie Pruitt in concert in June before the pandemic put a kibosh on that. The title track has a very Fleetwood Mac vibe to it that I love, but I also feel like it is not representative of the rest of the album which I don’t think has the same vibe. I love all the vibes though. It contains several songs off an earlier EP, so there are songs that are at least 5 years old on here in addition to newer stuff. So you get a range. There are songs about mental illness, about her working through her sexuality with her religious parents, a dangerous former relationship, as well as some lovely love songs. As one might expect for my favorite album of the year

2. Total Freedom by Kathleen Edwards

This is Kathleen Edwards’ first album in 18 years. She had left the music business and opened a cafe in Canada where she is from. I’m so happy she decided to return to music because this album is fantastic. It feels like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket. It’s definitely going to help carry me through this long, dark winter.

3. Reunions by Jason Isbell

This is the first Jason Isbell album since Stockholm that is not my favorite album of the year. It comes in at number three, so that’s still not bad. I’m apparently not the only one though because his past several albums have always wound up high on all the year end lists, but this year I’ve only seen it on one. I don’t know exactly why because it’s still a great album and full of the typically brilliant and insightful Isbell lyrics. The opening line to “Overseas” is one of the most brilliant lyrics I can think of “This used to be a ghost town, but even the ghosts got out.” Also, it contains one of my favorite songs of the year “Dreamsicle”, which people seemed to be high on when it came out but I haven’t seen it on any year end lists either.

4. Fake It Flowers by beabadoobee

This is the first album by 20 year old Filipino-British singer. It has a super 90s female rock vibe. Weirdly that wasn’t something I was super into during the actual 90s when I should have been as a teenager, but now I guess the sound is super nostalgic for me and I really love it.

5. Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers

I have adored everything Phoebe Bridgers has done in the last several years. This is her sophomore album and it is just as wonderful as her first album and the two side collaboration projects she did with Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker as boygenius and with Conor Oberst as Better Oblivion Community Center. She just got nominated for Best New Artist by the Grammy’s which cracks me up because she already has so many things under her belt, but the Grammy’s is gonna Grammy’s. I shake my head at that category every year.

6. Autonomy by Stephanie Lambring

This album was a late edition to my favorite albums of the year as it didn’t come out until October and I didn’t learn about it until some time in November when NPR Music did their podcast episode on their favorite music out in October. I wrote about it for one of my New Music Friday posts, and I don’t know that I have anything else to add to what I already said about it.

7. Pauline by Ashley Ray

This is a wonderful country album that will sadly never get any play on mainstream country radio. It’s full of beautiful story songs that weave a lovely tapestry. Many of the songs are very autobiographical including the title song “Pauline”, which is about her grandmother, and “Just a House” about her mother’s refusal to leave her house as it’s falling down around her because it’s where she lived with her now deceased husband.

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